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Lesson 10

The Catholic Reformation


• To define the Catholic response to the breakdown of the Universal Church in Western Europe

Notes to the Teacher

The highly centralized Universal Church was a creation of the High Middle Ages. The power of the Catholic Church rested in great part in its popularity with the masses, who viewed it as a necessary institution for salvation. At that time, the Church was powerful enough to call for Crusades to free the Holy Land and to force unwilling kings to lead them. The decline of this Universal Church began with the Babylonian Captivity at the beginning of the fourteenth century and accelerated with the Great Schism (1378-1417). Following the Great Schism, Italian popes became far more concerned with Renaissance arts than with needed religious reforms. The rise of powerful national monarchs further eroded the elite posttion of the Church.

Unlike the Italian Renaissance, with its concern for the individual in the secular world, Northern Renaissance spokesmen, such as Erasmus and Thomas More, were concerned with the individual in a Christian environment. The Church did not heed their warnings. Even Erasmus was dismissed as a voice in the wilderness. A more radical group of reformers emerged. In the course of the previous two centuries, national monarchs had achieved sizeable political power. Some of these rulers seized the opportunity to enlarge their scope of power by aligning themselves with religious reformers. Both reformers and national monarchs, for different reasons, estranged themselves from the Church in Rome. In retaliation, the Church made use of supportive rulers to control. the masses within their realms and finally began to institute long-neglected internal reforms.

In this lesson, students examine the influence of humanism on demands for Church reform, develop an understanding of the Avignon papacy, and assess the reasons why the Church succeeded in some areas, but failed in others, through an examination of the decrees of the Council of Trent. Students also

complete a chart showing Catholic responses to a series of Protestant actions, and assess the success or failure of these reactions to halt the splintering of the Universal Church.


1. Share with students the information in Notes to the Teacher, and review with students what they already know about humanism. Establish a definition of humanism (an intellectually liberating movement that sought to promote the good citizen through an educational program which was dominated by Latin grammar, rhetoric, metaphysics, and ethical behavior). Explain that humanism began in Italy during the early fourteenth century and moved northward into the Netherlands, Germany, and England. Explain that some of the first reformers in the Church were humanists. Ask for an example of a humanist writer (Erasmus, Thomas More). Ask students when the decline of the Universal Church began (at the time of the Babylonian Captivity). Ask them how the Great Schism accelerated the decline of the papacy. (The election of multiple popes, each with his own nationalistic follOWing, weakened the power of the papacy.)

2. Distribute Handout 18, and have students read it and answer the questions for homework. Review responses in a class discussion.

Suggested Responses:

1. superstition; withdrawal from secular world; corruption that resulted from abuses and privileges of monasticism

2. The power of the papacy was weakened; kings would not tolerate papal interference in secular affairs; lack oJ communication resulted in an isolated papacy; popes feared a loss oj power to local bishops and therefore there was liiile conciliar action.

3. Boniface III ordered all secular monarchs to submit to the authority qi the pope. The French king. Philip IV; took: the opporiuniuj to support: the creat.ion oj a second papacy at AVignon in France.


4. National monarchs consolidated their secular power and worked to further weaken the power of the papacy.

5. Occam-repudiated the authority of the pope and the hierarchical structure of the Church while stressing individual piety and a personal relationship with God; Wycl!ffe-de-emphasized religious rituals and encouraged the establishment of a religion based on faith.

6. The goal of church reform in the sixteenth century was to root out and punish heretical thinkers.

7. The purpose of the Council of Trent was to examine the condition of the Church and define its doctrines.

8. Reforms included a reaffirmation of the authority of the pope, a definition of the form and administration of the sacraments, and a clarification of the doctrine of purgatory and the need for indulgences. The council also forbade the establishment of a married clergy.

9. A seminary program to prooide for the education of priests was established; parish records were to be kept; new religious orders were established to educate young men and women; a Catechism outlining the doctrines of the Church was produced to be used to educate the young.

10. Under Paul IV; the Index of Forbidden Books was created; he also imposed restrictions on Jews, such as confining them to the first ghettoes in Rome, creating curfews, and curtailing their movements within papal territories.

3. Distribute Handout 19, and have students read the document and answer the questions for discussion. Review responses.

Suggested Responses:

1. The Council of Trent ordered the bishops to labor for the honor and glory oj God and the salvation of souls, not to enrich family and servants out of the revenues of the Church.

2. University professors should teach only what is approved by the Church and must take an oath each year to do so.

3. Cardinals were permitted to use the Church courts to enforce the law; no one may interpret the decrees of the Council without papal approval; books will be censored.

4. Distribute Handout 20, and have students complete the chart in part A as directed. Review responses.

Suggested Responses:

95 Theses posted.

Catholic Reaction-threat of excommunication and book-burning

Relative Success-spurred popular movement among German Protestants

Geographic Area-Holy Roman Empire,

especially German states

Protestants gained control of large numbers of Church faithful.

Catholic Reaction-Council of Trent (1545- 63)

Relative Success-numerous church reforms

Geographic Area-Northern and Western


Dutch become Calvinists.

Catholic Reaction-Spanish Inquisition Relative Success-conveyed impression

Church had gone too far to silence dissent; Protestants controlled the Netherlands

Geographic Area-Netherlands

Protestant pamphlets become widespread.

Catholic Reaction-the Index of Forbidden Books

Relative Success-more sense of going too far

Geographic Area-Protestant Western Europe


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Protestants failed to spread their faith in the Hapsburg states.

Catholic Reaction-Jesuits founded Relative Success-Church stemmed tide of

Protestantism in Eastern Europe

Geographic Area-Eastern Europe, including present-day Poland, Slovakia, Austria, Hungary, and Czech Republic

5. Discuss to what extent the Catholic Reformation accomplished its purpose in each of the following places, and assess the reasons for success or failure.

• Poland (succeeded because of Jesuits and sympathetic Hapsburg rulers)

• England (did not succeed because the monarch had sufftcten: power to prevent reconciliation with Rome)

• Holland (did not succeed because of the Spanish Inquisition)

• German Provinces (success depended on the religion of the ruler)

6. Conclude by having students create a cartoon as directed in part B of Handout 20. Have students share their cartoons. (In Panell, students should recognize that the Babylonian Captivity and the Great Schism shook the very foundations of the Church; Panel 2 should illustrate how the Protestant reformers, in alliance with rising secular rulers, toppled Church unity and forced reforms within the Church; Panel 3 should indicate thefailure of the many-sided efforts to restore the Universal Church).


Advanced Placement European History, Book 1 Lesson 10

Handout 18 (page 1)

Name __

Date. _

The Process of Reform

Directions: Read the information below, and answer the questions that follow.

Humanism and Church Reform

By the beginning of the seventeenth century, Europe was divided along religious lines. States declared themselves Protestant or Catholic, either through the adoption of a state religion, as in England and Spain, or by custom. Debates over religion, morals, and ethics grew out of the spread of humanism, which promoted the study of a curriculum that was dominated by .J.atin grammar, rhetoric, and metaphysics. Humanism was intended to be intellectually liberating and sought to educate the "good citizen." Eventually humanists, such as Desiderius Erasmus, became critical of many of the most basic practices of the Roman Catholic Church, as either illegal, superstitious, or an embodiment of the corruption which they believed permeated the structure of the Church. Humanists believed that the scholasticism that had developed in the monastic- syster,nof the Middle Ages encouraged a withdrawal from the secular world. Some. like Erasmus, attacked the corruption that he believed arose from the privileges. of monastic benefices. Most humanists sought to infuse their daily lives with ethical values, and move beyond the constraints of Church theology. Some humanists even went so far as to attack the right of the Church leadership to be infallible and immune to criticism.

Churches began to develop a national character, and monarchs rejected the interference of the papacy in affairs of state. The days when a pope could excommunicate a ruler and force him to do penance were gone. Secular rulers took over control of religious appointments and ecclesiastical properties. A lack of communication and adequate transportation further isolated the influence of the papacy and made it difficult to establish procedures for reform. Popes were afraid to encourage conciliar movements, fearing that they would lose power to councils of cardinals and bishops, and monarchs wanted to keep control of the Church within their nation. Little reform was accomplished, and clerical abuses continued to spread while factions within the Church continued to call for reform.

The Great Schism and the Avignon Papacy

The Great Schism, which began in 1378 and lasted until 1417, placed the authority of the papacy in jeopardy. Demanding that all secular monarchs submit to the authority of the pope, Boniface VIII brought the brewing controversy to a head. Philip IV of France ordered Boniface to be imprisoned, and he died in captivity. Philip's actions to install a more compliant pope resulted in the Avignon papacy. during which time the papacy remained under the control of the French king. In 1378, Pope Urban VI was elected by a group of cardinals who believed that he favored the Avtgnon papacy. When Urban criticized the cardinals for their wealth and corruption, they proceeded to elect a second pope, Clement VII. From 1378 to 1417. two pontiffs ruled the Church. In 1409, the Council of Pisa, established to resolve the dispute, elected a third pope. The refusal of the Roman (Clement VI) and Avlgnon (Urban VI) popes to resign caused this effort to fail. National rulers used the conditions of disarray to consolidate their secular power and further weaken the power of the papacy.

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Date __

Advanced Placement European History. Book 1 Lesson 10

Handout 18 (page 2)

Name _


The Council of Trent

For almost 150 years the Church continued to grapple with the issue of reform.

Heretical movements challenged papal authority. and some. like the Nominalists under William Occam. went so far as to completely reject the authority of the papacy and the hierarchical structure of the Church. Occam stressed indlvtdual piety and a personal relationship with God. Others. like John Wycliffe de-emphasized religious ritual and ceremony and encouraged the development of a religion based on faith. Martin Luther. John Calvin. and others would follow. By 1540. Protestantism had spread into central and northern Europe. Anglicans. Lutherans. and Calvinists made up 90 percent of Protestants. To answer the growth of Protestantism. the Church strengthened papal authority and began to move toward reform. Catholic reform was not concerned with changing Church doctrine. The Inquisition was established to root out and punish heretical thinkers in states where Catholicism was the dominant religion. most extensively in Spain.

In 1545. Pope Paul III called for a council to be held at Trent. The purpose of this council was to examine the condition of the Church and to specifically define its doctrines. Most of the delegates came to Trent with preconceived ideas of what was to be accomplished. They planned to define heresy and reaffirm theological doctrine. Delegates from Italy dominated the Council. they rejected most of the reforms that were proposed as "anathema." The delegates finally agreed to reaffirm the authority of the pope and his bishops. defined the formation and administration of the seven sacraments. and the presence of Christ in the Eucharist. The council opposed married clergy and reestablished the Church's position on purgatory, and the power of indulgences to remove punishment for sin, which had been repudiated by some Protestant churches.

The failure to properly educate priests was an especially trying area. The Council ordered that seminaries be established in every diocese, for the education of priests. Parish records were to be kept. recording births. deaths, baptisms, and marriages. Monastic orders were encouraged to begin reforms, and new religious orders. such as the Jesuits and the Ursultnes, stressed the education of young men and women. The Capuchins were established to work among the poor. The papacy was reorganized, and more able popes pushed for additional reforms. Catechisms were produced to teach Church doctrine, and books that recounted the lives of the saints or promoted spiritual growth were widespread. Groups of teaching brothers worshipped and worked together. especially among the poor.

Some pontiffs carried reform to extremes. The election of Pope Paul IV saw the establishment of a repressive rule. Books were censored. and an Index of Forbidden Books was established. Books were ordered altered before publication, and the publication of any book that contradicted Church doctrine or authority was forbidden. Paul IV also extended restrictions on Jews living in predominantly Catholic countries in Europe. Under his direction the first ghettoes were established in Rome. Jews were ordered to live in these walled areas of the city and to be in their houses before the ringing of the evening Angelus. Curfews were imposed on Jews. and their movements within the papal territories were severely restricted.

While the Catholic Reformation resulted in change and a religious revival among the faithful, the Council of Trent and the Peace of Augsburg, which brought to an end religious wars in Germany, did little to end the animosity that had developed between Catholics and Protestants. Religious wars in Bohemia, France, and Germany dominated the first half of the seventeenth century.

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Advanced Placement European History, Book 1 Lesson 10

Handout 18 (page 3)

Name _

Date __

1. What did the humanists criticize about the Church?

2. How did the relationship between monarchs and the Church change?

3. How did Boniface VIII precipitate the Great Schism?

4. How did national monarchs take advantage of the Great Schism?

5. How did William Occam and John Wycliffe, leaders of heretical movements, each challenge the authority of the pope?

6. What was the aim of Church reform in the sixteenth century?

7. What was the purpose of the Council of Trent?

8. What reforms came out of the Council of Trent?

9. What other reforms resulted from actions of the Council?

10. How did the election of Pope Paul IV signal the beginning of a repressive era in the Church?

© COPYRlGHT, The Center for. learning. Used with permission. Not for resale.


Date __

Advanced Placement European History, Book 1 Lesson 10

Handout 19 (page 1)

Name __

The Council of Trent

Directions: Read the following excerpts from The Canons and Decrees oj the Sacred and Oecumenical Council oj Trent, and answer the questions.

Decree on Reformation

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Chapter 1

. It is to be wished, that those who undertake the office of a bishop should understand what their portion is; and comprehend that they are called, not for their own convenience, not to riches or luxury, but to labours and cares for the glory of God. For it is not to be doubted, that the rest of the faithful also will be more easily excited to religion and innocence, if they shall see those who are set over them, not fixing their thoughts on the things of this world, but on the salvation of souls, and on their heavenly country. . . . [Albove all that they so order their whole conversation, as that others may thence be able to derive examples of frugality, modesty, contingency, and of that holy humility which so much recommends us to God ....

· . . It not only orders that bishops be content with modest furniture, and a frugal table and diet, but . . . [It] wholly forbids them to strive to enrich their own kindred or domestics out of the revenues of the church ....

Chapter 2

· . . Moreover, all those to whom belong the charge, vtsttatlon, and reformation of universttles and of (places oil general study, shall diligently take care that the canons and decrees of this holy Synod be, by said universities, wholly received; and that the masters, doctors, and others, in the said universities, interpret and teach those things which are of Catholic faith, in conformity therewith; and that at the beginning of each year they bind themselves by solemn oath to this procedure.

Chapter 21

· .. Lastly, the holy Synod declares, that all and Singular the things which, under whatsoever clauses and words, have been ordained in this sacred Council, in the matter of reformation of morals, and ecclesiastical discipline, as well under the Sovereign Pontiffs, Paul III and Julius III, of happy memory, as under the most blessed Pius IV, have been so decreed, as that the authority of the Apostolic See both is, and is understood to be, untouched thereby ....

On the Index of Books; On the Catechism, Breviary, and Missal

· .. The sacred and holy Synod, in second Session celebrated under our most holy lord, Pius IV, commissioned certain chosen Fathers to consider what ought to be done touching various censures, and books either suspected or pernicious, and to report thereon to the said holy Synod.

On Receiving and Observing the Decrees of the Council

And, in virtue of holy obedience, and under the penalties by the sacred canons appointed, and others more grievous, even those of deprivation, to be inflicted at our discretion, We do also command all and each of our venerable brethren ... of what estate. grade, order and dignity soever, they may be, even though distinguished with the honour of the cardinalate, diligently to observe the said decrees and statutes in their own churches, cities, and dioceses, both in their courts of justice and elsewhere, and to cause the same to be inviolably observed, each by his own subjects, in so

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Advanced Placement European History, Book 1 Lesson 10

Handout 19 (page 2)

Name __

Oate __

far as they are in any way concerned therein, silencing gainsayers . . . by means of judicial sentences, and by the censures also and ecclesiastical penalties contained in said decrees; calling in also, if need be, the help of the secular arm. . . .

Furthermore, in order to avoid the perversion and confusion which might arise, if each one were allowed, as he might think fit, to publish his own commentaries and interpretations of the decrees of the Council; We, by apostolic authority, forbid all men, as well as ecclesiastics, of whatsoever order, condition, and rank they may be, as also laymen. with whatsoever honor and power invested; prelates, to wit, under the pain of being interdicted from entering the church, and all others whomsoever they be, under pain of excommunication incurred by the fact, to presume. without our authority to publish, in any form, any commentaries, glosses, annotations, scholta, or any kind of interpretation whatsoever of the decrees of the said Council .... 1

1. What did the Council of Trent order the bishops to do?

2. What did the Council decide with regard to university professors?

3. What were the main points of chapter 21 and the last two subsections?

'J. Waterworth. ed. and trans .," The Council of Trent: The Twenty-Fifth Session." Hanover Historical Texts Project. 13 August 2001. <> (6 June 2005).

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Advanced Placement European History. Book 1 Lesson 10

Handout 20 (page 1)

Name, ___

Actions and Reactions

Date __

Part A.

Directions: Complete the following chart showing how Protestant actions demanded Catholic reactions at the time of the Reformation.

Protestant Action

Catholic Reaction

Geographic Area Contested

Relative Success

in Achieving Catholic/Protestant Aims

95 Theses posted.

Protestants gained control

of large numbers of Church faithful.

Dutch become Calvinists.

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Narne, __

Advanced Placement European History. Book 1 Lesson 10

Handout 20 (page 2)

Protestant Action

Protestant pamphlets become widespread.

Protestants failed to spread their faith in the Hapsburg states.

Part B.

Catholic Reaction

Date, __

Relative Success

in Achieving Catholic/Protestant Aims

Geographic Area Contested

Directions: Create a three-panel cartoon showing the decline in the power and prestige of the Universal Church from the Babylonian Captivity to the Spanish Inquisition. Use Humpty Dumpty in each of the panels as a symbol for the Universal Church. In the first panel. show the effect of the Babylonian Captivity and the Great Schism on the Church. In the second panel. show the impact of the Protestant reformers on the Church in Rome. Finally. in the last panel. show the success of the Catholic or Counter-Reformation in restoring the power of the Universal Church.

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